David Green

David Green (Books) is the imprint under which I publish booklets of my own poems, when there are sufficient of them. Apart from that, the website has become what it is. I hope you find at least some of it worthwhile.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Ironically canonical

Firstly, quite beside the point, Hat's Off and Congratulations to Her Majesty as her horse wins the Yorkshire Cup. It must have been exciting with the distances being a neck, a neck and a short head but it makes for a pleasant afternoon and the prize money should cover a suitable retirement gift for His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh. More importantly, though, the 4/1 I availed myself of last night restores my turf account to the very comfortable position it was ten days ago and thoughts turn towards the 72 disc set of Complete Bach Cantatas. We will see.

But, mainly, in  my role as honarary consultant to anybody doing a course I can help with, I've been considering 'the canon' which is apparently the subject of an essay for the Open University.
A list of those sine qua non names without which no genre can apparently be defined. It seems to have come from the selection of painters made by Vasari and developed from there, so it's hard luck for anybody that slipped his mind.
In Western classical music, it would begin with Bach-Mozart-Beethoven but where does it stop. Surely then Schubert and Brahms and, if them, then Haydn, Mendelssohn and I'm sure, looking at Wikipedia, Dieterich Buxtehude would be thrilled to have been included once the canon was expanded. But is one inducted as if into a Hall of Fame and can one be demoted out of it if fashion changes and one is no longer de rigeur. What would Telemann have to say about that.
But the point being made by the course in question doesn't appear to be who should be in or out or whether it's a daft idea with no definitive answer. It sets up the canon only to denounce it for not including many women or black people.
And, yes, it is dominated by German men in wigs and my records include nothing by Clara Schumann or Fanny Mendelssohn or Mozart's sister, only Hildegaard of Bingen, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Sofia Gubaidalina and Errolyn Wallen.
But I'm not off to Jamaica to ask why UB40 aren't considered an essential part of the reggae canon alongside Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Lee Perry, etc.
Although everyone has their own idea of the great and good, it is not a list that is officially written down anywhere. It has been set up just so that it can be knocked down for apparently fashionable purposes.
The canon of academic correctness currently includes a critique of the idea of the canon but in 1979, when I was being introduced to the then current fashion, it was the 'intentional fallacy' that was the object of derision, in favour of the text as the object of study. Oh, Death of the Author, Where are you now.
I don't know if Sofia Gubaidalina or Errolyn Wallen are canonical, neither do I care and I very much doubt if they do, either. It is a shame to have to cite things that have effectively become no longer relevant in order to signal one's virtue in ways that weren't germane to the issue in the first place. Still, if that's what you need to do to pass the exam and become a graduate, I suppose you do it. It was ever the way.